Administrators can improve school culture by enhancing training to help staff better engage students with emotional issues. This, say experts, is important for boosting teacher satisfaction and retention, because training gives staff the tools and comfort level to best interact with all students—including those who may be grappling with mental illness.
Emotional well-being of children doesn’t just impact their ability to learn and overall academic achievement of schools they attend. Student mental health can influence a host of relevant issues for schools—among them campus culture, safety and even overall satisfaction and retention of teachers. High teacher attrition in Missouri is one reason that education administrators cite for implementing or strengthening policies to boost mental health of students.
“Educators are asked to be effective and efficient with their use of resources. So instituting programs that can enhance campus culture and academics is not only appropriate—it’s imperative if we’re to help students reach their full potential, and help staff maintain rewarding careers,” says Norman Ridder, superintendent of the Springfield School District.
Ridder is referring, in part, to a 2002 report by the Missouri State Auditor’s Office with statistics that are sobering:
- 15 percent of Missouri teachers leave the profession after their first year of teaching.
- Just 29 percent of Missouri residents with a valid teaching certificate currently work in the state’s public schools.
- 28 percent of certified teachers never enter the classroom.
Often cited as one reason for teachers leaving the profession is a sense of being inadequately prepared to handle a range of student behaviors. A first step for education administrators and policy leaders? Enhancing professional development of staff to help them identify risk factors in students with social-emotional concerns or disorders, and instituting policies that lead to the least restrictive placement for these at-risk students—some of them perhaps among the best and brightest minds that Missouri has to offer.